Interaction of the murine dilute suppressor gene (dsu) with fourteen coat color mutations.
The murine dilute suppressor gene, dsu, was previously shown to suppress the dilute coat color phenotypes of mice homozygous for the dilute (d), leaden (ln), and ashen (ash) mutations. Each of these mutations produce adendritic melanocytes, which results in an abnormal transportation of pigment granules into the hair shaft and a diluted coat color. The suppression of each mutation is associated with the restoration of near normal melanocyte morphology, indicating that dsu can compensate for the absence of normal d, ln and ash gene products. In experiments described here, we have determined whether dsu can suppress the coat color phenotype of 14 additional mutations, at 11 loci, that affect coat color by mechanisms other than alterations in melanocyte morphology. In no case was dsu able to suppress the coat color phenotype of these 14 mutations. This suggests that dsu acts specifically on coat color mutations that result from an abnormal melanocyte morphology. Unexpectedly, dsu suppressed the ruby eye color of ruby-eye (ru) and ruby-eye-2 (ru-2) mice, to black. The exact nature of the defect producing these two mutant phenotypes is unknown. Histological examination of the pigmented tissues of the eyes of these mice indicated that dsu suppresses the eye color by increasing the overall level of pigmentation in the choroid but not the retinal pigmented epithelium. Choroid melanocytes, like those in the skin, are derived from the neural crest while melanocytes in the retinal pigmented epithelium are derived from the optic cup. This suggests that dsu may act specifically on neural crest-derived melanocytes. These studies have thus identified a second group of genes whose phenotypes are suppressed by dsu and have provided new insights into the mechanism of action of dsu.